Observing that the Indian Air Force's flexibility was its greatest strength, the IAF chief has virtually ruled out drafting a force doctrine like sister services, even as the force is evolving procedures to incorporate force-multipliers into its functioning.
"Why would we seek to tie our own hands? Our flexibility is our greatest strength and we would not like to be strait-jacketed by a doctrine," Air Chief Marshal S Krishnaswamy said after his customary press conference on the eve of the Air Force Day.
"Our capabilities flow from the fact that nobody knows what we are going to do, and that is an important asset in this era of high-performance reconnaisance satellites and other surveillance devices," he said.
In a lighter vein, he said journalists would study the whole document and analyse IAF's functioning in its context.
"You will learn it all and test me on what it says... you will start to criticise us if we do anything outside what it says," he quipped.
Earlier this year, the Indian Navy had brought out its Maritime Doctrine and the Indian Army is also on the verge of adopting its new 'Cold Start' doctrine, which envisages combined force battle groups, incorporating assets from all the three services, to replace the present concept of 'Strike' and 'Holding' Corps.
The IAF, which possesses most of nuclear-delivery platforms of India's strategic deterrent, was also expected to come forth with a doctrine which elucidated changes in its operational functioning, with the acquisition of 'force-multipliers' like the mid-air refuellers, which is well underway and the 'Phalcon' AWACS system, expected within the next three years.
However, the force has taken cognisance of the changes in its functioning flowing out of these 'force-multipliers' -- both in the increasing reach of its fighter aircraft as well as measures for the safety of these valuable assets.
"These assets, which are virtually ''sitting ducks'', present tempting targets for the enemy and his first move is to knock them out of the sky," a senior IAF officer said.
Sources told UNI that though the AWACS flies at a height much above the capability of most fighters, procedures are being drawn up for its protection as well as of the mid-air tankers.
Buoyed by the enhancement in its power projection provided by the IL-78 mid-air refuellers, the IAF is also adapting its frontline SU-30 fighter for this role through the ''buddy'' system.
The American-inspired system aims at decreasing reliance on dedicated mid-air refuelling tankers, and equipping fighter aircraft, possessing adequate capacity, in this role so as to augment deep penetration tactical strike capability. The Su-30 is capable of carrying nine and a half tons in its refuelling pods, while the Il-78s carry 70 to 80 tons of fuel.
Furthermore, the force has also made changes in some basic procedures, switching to straight landing techniques from the traditional circuit landing method.
This is considered part of the changes which have led to a marked change for the better in the IAF's safety record, with the accident rate plunging to 0.83 per 10,000 hours -- the lowest in 34 years, according to the Air Chief, who though is still not satisfied.
"We must aim for a rate of 0.5, if not lower," he said.